|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
4 Pentecost - Proper 7
June 24, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
6 years ago, today – reading proper 7 in year C of our three-year lectionary – I told you a riddle. It wasn’t
really much of a riddle, then, and it’s less of one, now, with the passage of time, but I want to beg your
patience while I tell you that same riddle, again, this morning.
The riddle actually uses as its premise a rather sad story.
It seems there was a man who decided he would take the day off from work, one day, so that he could take
his son to the ball game. They had a great time; their team won, and finally they headed home, happy with
the outcome of the game, and their bellies full of hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and soda. But their joy was not
to last, as. On their way, a truck ran a red light and hit their car.
The police and the ambulances came. Both of them were badly hurt. They were loaded into separate
ambulances and taken off to different hospitals.
On arrival at his hospital, the boy was examined and rushed off to an OR, where the surgical team was
waiting. But, about to begin work, the surgeon looked down at the boy’s face and exclaimed, “I’m sorry; I
can’t operate on this boy. He’s my son!”
So…, who in the world was the surgeon? Does anyone need a moment to think about that?
Of course, the surgeon was the boy’s mother! That’s so obvious!… …NOW!
But that’s not a new riddle – and it wasn’t 6 years ago – and I wonder if any of you recall, as I do, hearing
that same riddle four or five decades ago when it first made the rounds? And do you recall the typical
reaction, then? I remember that well, too.
Forty years ago, when asked who the surgeon was, people would typically stand there, perplexed, trying to
figure it out. They’d scratch their heads and knit their brows. They’d ask, “Well was the guy who took him
to the ballgame his REAL father or his adopted father?”
And when told the answer – and very often, people NEEDED to be told the answer, because they couldn’t
figure it out – they’d laugh. “A good one,” they’d say; “the joke’s on me!”
I have commented often on the degree and the rapidity of change that has taken place in our society in
the past hundred years or so. This little exercise points up just one of them – and an important one, too. It
worked, and was funny, forty years ago because female surgeons – surgeons who might actually BE
mothers – were such a rarity as to be missing from our consciousness of what was probable or even
possible. It just never entered our minds that the surgeon might be a woman! Today, female surgeons still
are not as numerous as they ought to be, but there are plenty out there, nevertheless, and hospital
programs on TV in recent years have gotten us all used to the idea!
The last 100 years have been an amazing century – a century of amazing change! And the last 200 years -
since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution – have been quite incredible!
They’ve been, altogether, an amazing cap to the first 20 Centuries of Christianity.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you
are all one in Christ Jesus!” These words from our Epistle, this morning, St. Paul wrote just about one
thousand, nine hundred, fifty years ago – maybe a few years earlier.
Yet it took eighteen hundred years for the Christian world to take seriously, “there is neither slave nor
free in Christ Jesus,” and rid itself of slavery. But no one in the Western World would question that act,
It took another fifty years to take seriously “neither male nor female”, and for women to win the right to
vote, or even to be President of the United States, for that matter, and no one in this part of the world
would question those advances, today, either – though there might be considerable and heated
disagreement about who the first one of those should be.
And but for a small minority of our brothers and sisters none of us would question the similar
developments in our own Church only about 50 years ago, allowing women to vote and serve on vestries,
and just 30 years ago granting them the right to become priests or bishops!
Two thousand years after our Lord, we are just beginning to understand how to live the life Jesus Christ
calls us to. I would submit to you that my little story, this morning, simple as it is, ought to make that
abundantly clear, right within the framework of the experience of many of us, here this morning – if not
most. The world is a vastly different place, and the Church – the Faith – MUST change, and IS changing,
with it – not BECAUSE of the world, but WITH the world!
As we read those words of St. Paul in these early years of the 21st Century, we cannot help but wonder at
how long it took us to arrive where we are, how much things have changed in the past one and two
Centuries – and how very, very far we have to go.
And, reading those words, and looking at our two thousand year history – and where we are, now – we
cannot help but feel uncomfortable that we haven’t moved farther, faster.
How nice it would be if the Gospel could speak to us in a direct and simple way – as to some degree it
SEEMED to speak for a thousand years, 15 hundred years, even 18 hundred years!
How nice it would be if we could depend on what we were taught when we were children, in Catechism or
Sunday school 70, 50, 30 years ago.
Indeed, how nice it would be if we could rely on the faith we taught our own children!
But we can’t. Because the world in which we live is the world – the context – in which our faith lives; lives
and grows, and – yes – changes!
We understand the ancient languages of Scripture as we’ve never understood them, before – to the point
of realizing that scripture doesn’t always say or mean what we thought it did, and our understandings and
ideas must change.
We have more information, and a better understanding of the Church’s own history, than ever before –
and understanding how the Scriptures and the Faith came to be as they are, we often find our selves
saying it should never have been that way, and we must do things differently, now!
We have a better understanding of the world, itself, of how it works, of what we are – we human beings,
we human animals – through physics, biology, genetics, and we find the pre-scientific and naïve
understandings of the primitive world of scripture no longer speaks to us, can no longer control us, and
I have touched on these things, before, I know, and I will, again, many, many times. I bring them up,
because, as we read these words from Paul once more, today – as we do every three years – we’re still
struggling with them. And this time, the wider and deeper meaning of those words is threatening to wound
our Church and to rend the Anglican Communion that we so love!
Those that would break away from our Church – or exclude us from it – tell us that the Bible forbids
homosexuality, and that by ordaining a gay priest to be bishop we are breaking the law of God. But there
are a lot of things the Bible says that we don’t listen to any more – because this IS a different world: the
world isn’t flat; it’s not the only place in the universe; it’s a whole lot more than six thousand years old –
and some people are born with sexual orientations that differ from the majority: all realities the Bible
doesn’t deal with, but that we must!
And our Church is being torn apart by people for whom a literal belief in the Bible trumps not only science
and reason, but even the abiding Word of God: the Gospel of Love, proclaimed to us by Jesus Christ!
At best, this IS a difficult time for any committed and thinking Christian. But the times are made more
difficult by those who refuse to see that we live in a “brave new world,” and prefer to pretend nothing has
changed and nothing needs to change.
But we – every one of us – owe it to ourselves, to our families family, to our church, to our world to make
ourselves aware of what is going on in the Church: to study, not only the issues that threaten to tear us
apart, but both the science and the theology that lie beneath and behind the issues; to bring to birth in
ourselves, a true religion for this new world we live in.
And it’s never too LATE for Truth!
“If any want to become my followers,” our Lord says in this morning’s Gospel, “let them deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Please note we are called not just to take up our cross, but to take it up, daily! Never reaching that “safe
place” where it’s okay to stop; even to rest in our journey. But EACH DAY to die in Christ, so that each day
we can be reborn in Christ. Never clinging to the old, the past – but living in the present and moving, in
Christ, into the future.
The followers of Christ can never afford to say, as so many of us so often do, “but we’ve never done
things that way, before;” cannot allow themselves to say, “but that’s not what I was taught to believe!” The
followers of Christ must always be ready to take up their cross – and move on; take the next step!
The message of Christ is old. But the world in which the message is today proclaimed, and in which it must
be today received and UNDERSTOOD, is a new world – God’s new world. It is for us to work and prepare for
the new world that comes about every day – and to live and proclaim the Gospel of Christ IN and FOR the
world that is ever new!
In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.